In America, I looked to websites like City Search and Chowhound for restaurant critiques and suggestions. However, in Vietnam, I’ve pretty much been on my own. While Saigon foodie websites exist, they’re mostly aimed at visitors and tend to recommend places near touristy areas that I’m far from. Without any sort of diner-driven guide through Saigon’s culinary landscape, The Astronomer and I more or less hungrily stumble into eateries that look semi-clean or ask random locals (i.e. mechanics) for recommendations. Thus far, our method has yet to lead us astray and stomachaches have been few and far between for The Astronomer and non-existent in my case. Woot.
Whereas my favorite animal to eat is the pig, The Astronomer’s is the chicken. He was on cloud nine last week when we visited two restaurants specializing in the white meat.
The first chicken-centric restaurant was Quan An Dao Lan located at 92 Dien Bien Phu Street in District 1. We found Dao Lan after a visit to the pharmacy. The menu offers mien ga (chicken glass noodle soup), pho ga (chicken pho), bun ga (vermicelli noodles with chicken), xoi ga (sticky rice with chicken), and chao ga (chicken porridge) at three price points—10,000 VND, 20,000 VND, and 40,000 VND—depending on the quantity and cut of meat included. The Astronomer ordered a bowl of pho ga for 10,000 VND, while I had the 10,000 VND xoi ga.
The xoi ga was comprised of a bed of plain white sticky rice topped with pieces of shredded chicken and fried shallots. The xoi came with a small bowl of chicken broth sprinkled with onions and cilantro. Although the broth was meant for sipping, I preferred to dunk my sticky rice in it, while I dipped my chicken in a salt, pepper, and lime juice mixture made by a restaurant staffer. I was pleased with my selection and look forward to trying the 20K and 40K renditions in the future.
The Astronomer dug his pho too—the broth, noodles, and chicken were all delectable. He is curious to try a 40,000 VND bowl of pho, which is an exorbitant price for a bowl of noodles in Saigon.
Our second chicken adventure of the week was at Su Su, a little shack located next to our office on Tu Xuong Street. Su Su makes a mean fried chicken using a drip method I’ve never seen before. Rather than deep frying a la KFC (which, by the way, is all the rage in Saigon), the restaurant uses a nifty concoction that rains hot oil on the meat. The chicken comes out crispy on the outside and moist and hot in the inside. Genius. The chicken is served on a platter with red fried rice (red due to tomato paste), fresh tomato slices, rau ram (Vietnamese coriander), and a vinaigrette made from chicken drippings. The wing platter (canh) goes for 19,000 VND, while the leg platter (dui) goes for 20,000 VND. Su Su was out of dui during our visit, so we both got canh. The only thing that would make this place tastier is if they served gizzards. Mmm, boy.